Vacuous bureaucrats have a way of looking at things that work – traditions and proven best practices that make sense. Then, with the right application of unimaginative routine, sterile processes, and robotic paper shuffling they find a way to muck things up.
Unfortunately, over time we have been sold on the fallacy that bigger is naturally better – and our faux-reality is often crafted by some corporate marketing image group.
I hate to break it to you, but Cracker Barrel isn’t really a ‘country store.’
It is a 633 location publicly traded mega-chain built upon the concept of identically laid out retail outlets that serve as a convenient waiting area for the theme restaurant – strategically funneling hungry customers toward branded food, apparel, toys, and tchotchkes to provide maximum product exposure.
And, for the uninitiated, Latitudes at Margaritaville is a zero-lot-line ‘immersive lifestyle’ gated subdivision based on Jimmy Buffett’s well-crafted sense of escapism, built on top of eco-sensitive pine scrub miles from an actual beach. A fabricated Eden blanketed with wood frame cracker boxes “starting in the mid $300’s.”
That pseudo-utopia may appeal to some, but to my taste, that contrived horseshit is as far from paradise as one can get. . .
Why is it that our ‘powers that be’ fail to recognize and protect those things that are truly distinctive – a place, service, or attraction that is genuinely sui generis and unrepeatable in nature – things built on hard work and time-honored tradition that become part of the unique culture of our community by virtue of their longevity?
When the hard-earned success of these one-of-kind places becomes attractive to those with resources and a profit motive, it suddenly becomes survival of the fittest, as government engages in corporate welfare schemes to skew the economic playing field in favor of influential insiders – or falls back on narrowly defined procurement policies and officious processes that fail to take anything into consideration other than the size of the bid.
According to reports, next month, after six-decades of continuous family operation, the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant at Deleon Springs State Park – thought by many to be the most unique restaurant in America – will cease to exist as we knew it thanks to a recent decision by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection who oversees state park concessions.
Cooking your own buckwheat pancakes on an open griddle at your table in the cozy little eatery has been a family tradition in Volusia County since I was a small child. Generations of people have gathered around the beautiful clear spring, toured the museum, and walked the grounds while they wait for a table in the 100-year-old wooden building.
This wildly popular local attraction has been lovingly operated by the Schwarze family for 61-years.
Recently, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection accepted a competing bid from the Virginia-based mega-hospitality management company Guest Services, Inc. effectively ending the Schwarze family’s successful operation and destroying a local small business for a few dollars more. . .
According to the family’s post on social media earlier this week:
“After 61 years, the Old Spanish Sugar Mill will be closing its screen doors.
While it is unfortunate, the state has decided not to renew our contract and move forward with another concession in the DeLeon Springs State Park. We have been blessed to serve as a Central Florida staple since 1961. We sincerely thank you for making us your “go-to” for when you’ve got company or a chocolate chip pancake craving. Thank you again for sharing those memories with us. The Sugar Mill was without a doubt the coolest breakfast restaurant in America. Our business will close September 12, 2022.”
The Schwarze family specialized in chocolate chip hotcakes.
Guest Services, Inc. specializes in monetizing what now passes as “hospitality” to drive revenue across a range of services to public and private entities.
Nothing wrong with that – but they are not the same. . .
You may remember in 2017 when the Florida Department of Environmental Protection came under scrutiny when they ghosted the Schwarze family ahead of their quinquennial contract renewal – simply refused to communicate with them – leaving the operation in limbo.
Following a massive public outcry some faceless bureaucrat in Tallahassee finally got off their ass and did the right thing. . .
Now, here we are again.
Only this time, a business carefully built by the blood, sweat, and tears of our neighbors – an experience that can never be duplicated – is lost forever.
What happened to the commonsense notion of our municipal, county, and state governments providing preference in procurement and contracts to Florida-based businesses as a means of bolstering the local economy, generating jobs and regional supply chains, and creating an “economic multiplier” effect in the community where those dollars originate?
You know, all that happy horseshit our “economic development” gurus spew when selling us on another corporate welfare shim-sham for an influential local billionaire or mega-donor to all the right political campaigns?
Yeah. Don’t give me any shit about competition in a ‘free market economy’ until mom-and-pop receive the same tax-supported largesse and access to the public teat as an insurance magnate or some well-heeled developer with a chip in the game.
Speaking of those do-nothing Volusia County bureaucrats sitting atop piles of federal Covid-19 recovery funds and those self-congratulatory “experts” over at Team Volusia – where were they when we needed them to protect a long-time area business?
What was more important to these empty suits than saving a family-owned business that has created jobs and served our tourist industry for six-decades?
And why did they sit idle as the Schwarze family was summarily out bid for a high-profile local contract by a national hospitality management conglomerate?
And where were our incumbent local and state politicians who are so damn busy groveling for our sacred vote – telling us everything they think we want to hear – bickering, backbiting, and grooming their abhorrent records, while the Schwarze family and the unique experience they provided to our community, was being outsourced to an out-of-state mega-corporation specializing in “…luxury communities, hotels, resorts, government and business dining facilities, full-service restaurants, state and national parks, outdoor recreation, boathouses, marinas, museums, conference centers, senior living communities, health care systems, school and university dining facilities, and specialty retail stores.”
Don’t hold your breath waiting for answers.
What a damnable shame. . .